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This is a really good (short) thread.

There actually are a lot of beautiful things about Christianity, but the one that usually gets cited is its teachings on forgiveness, and I think that's actually one of the cheapest and most screwed-up ones.
Because ultimately, in imagining a heaven that ignores any power relations between humans (God remains supreme, of course, but in Jesus there's neither Jew nor Greek, man nor woman, etc.) it then proceeds to do an "I don't see color" about it here on earth.
Everyone's equally responsible for forgiving everyone, in this worldview.

But a parent forgiving a child who accidentally breaks something of theirs while playing with it, and an adult child forgiving a parent for a lifetime of sexual abuse aren't the same, and shouldn't be.
Like, how incredibly fucked up is it to tell enslaved people they have to forgive--and love--the people who are holding them in slavery?

The insistence on constant forgiveness, and the reduction of all of it to supposed equality seems DESIGNED to codify power relations.
And, of course, that's likely why Christianity has been so successful.

The idea of heaven where there's equality is comforting to oppressed people, & the pressure to love & forgive everyone, turn the other cheek, allows inequality to remain on earth--no threat to the powerful.
The promise of an afterlife where the status quo doesn't exist serves to dissolve the urgency of changing the status quo in life, as does the valorization of suffering.
(Which is how you get Mother Teresa opposing any measures that might eliminate or even significantly ameliorate poverty.)
And it's 100% understandable that people want to find meaning in their suffering.

But finding meaning in your suffering can very easily drain away the *anger* at it that usually pushes people to risk challenging the circumstances that create it.
Lost in all of this is justice.

My evangelical aunt used to make me go to Vacation Bible School when I went to stay with her for a week each summer, & even in the classes for very young kids, they taught that what we deserved was justice, but through Jesus we got mercy.
This was put in very dichotomies, and parallels.

anger - forgiveness
justice - mercy
deserved suffering - grace
law - love
I got in trouble, needless to say, for saying, "I don't want mercy, I want justice."
And what I couldn't articulate, in, like 1st grade, but what was infuriating me about the whole setup (and then making me feel bad because all these adults were preaching about me about how anger was wrong--unless it was God being angry), but I can frame now, is:
The worldview I was brought up with saw everyone as essentially good people. It acknowledged that people hurt each other, but tended to focus on that goodness first. So it asked first what was happening to a person that was harming them, rather than what they were doing wrong.
So the primary call to empathy there was with people as victims--and the primary call to action was "how do we stop the things that are hurting people?"

Implicit in there is the assumption that people should not be hurting from anything that's fixable.
And there are certainly issues with this way of thinking. "Hurt people hurt people" can also turn into not holding anyone actually accountable, because almost everyone in this world is hurting in one way or another.

Which is why it must be paired with power relations analysis.
In contrast, what my aunt's church was teaching was to see humanity as a mass of wrongdoers, which meant primarily directing empathy and identification with people doing harm, rather than the targets of their harm.
And in that worldview, in starting with viewing everyone, including yourself, as someone engaged in wrongdoing, the idea of preferring mercy over justice makes sense.

Especially when it doesn't distinguish between intentional wrongdoing and accidental wrongdoing.
One of the things I learned in studying law was that how the question is framed is EVERYTHING in making sense of events.
So they were saying to children, essentially, "think of all the ways you screwed up today, every unkind thought you've had, every moment you weren't compassionate--justice for that would be the death penalty. Do you want justice or mercy?"

OBVIOUSLY any rational being says mercy
Whereas what I was taught at home was "Kids just like you don't have enough to eat. Imagine what it would be like. Do you think that's fair? How would you feel if that were you?"

Framed like that, justice IS compassion. So, in many circumstances, is anger.
And more to the point, that framing begs more questions, instead of shutting them down. And kids are both primed to question, and to accept answers from the adults in their lives.

So that framing, for a lot of kids, is going to prompt:

WHY are kids like me going hungry?
And the thing is, in that framing, focusing on the people being harmed, there isn't really a difference between justice and mercy, or the idea of mercy is largely irrelevant. What is relevant is how you get starving kids something to eat.
And the ideas of mercy and forgiveness are distant end goals. Like, after you fix the problem, do you forgive, do you show mercy, to the people who caused it? Maybe. Do your forgive yourself for your role in it? Maybe.

But none of that matters until no one's starving.
And I was both a smart enough kid and Midwestern enough to want to be polite that after I asked a few unwelcome questions and got reprimanded by the teachers, I learned to talk the talk and keep my head down. After all, it was only a week and my parents would rescue me.
But it meant that I spent a week each summer smothering anger and betrayal at adults teaching a conception of "compassion" and "love" that set "justice" in opposition to both of those.
And as an adult, I get chills thinking how brutalized my internal moral compass would have become if it had been more than one week a year.

It's only AFTER justice, when it is NOT expected or normalized, that forgiveness is grace.
(Other things I got in trouble for saying at VBS:

"If my mom's going to hell, I'll go there with her."

"If God sends people to hell for getting angry when people are hurt, then hell is where good people go and God is the one who's wrong.")
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